May 7, 2021 | NEWS | By Riley Prillwitz | Photo by Iris Guo & Video courtesy of The Catalyst archives
Senior year is usually a time for celebration and special events to close out the college experience. It is a time for taking chances, like going to one last college party, the last organized events on campus, or hanging out with friends for what may be the last time.
This year, the Class of 2021 did not have those chances. COVID-19 put a stop to many events seniors were looking forward to.
Like other college students in the nation have expressed, adapting to a “new normal” and doing everything differently has been not an easy transition.
“My experience throughout this pandemic has been quite a rollercoaster,” Jenna Wilt ’21 said. “As I believe most people felt at the beginning of the pandemic, I expected things to be back to normal by eighth block of last year. Obviously, I was sadly mistaken. I have felt extremely bored, extremely busy, stressed, and relaxed all throughout this past year at different times.”
Malcom Gewirz ’21 felt the struggles of this school year as well.
“I think finishing college in a pandemic brought up new challenges that no one expected. Personally, it was tough for me to find a balance between work and play while being isolated to only seeing a few other households the entire year,” Gewirz said.
Instead of taking their last major classes on campus in the unique Colorado College architecture, most seniors have spent the year on Zoom. Even when events other than classes were being offered virtually, some felt it was not the same as being in the moment with friends.
“I expected this year to be the year I finished playing soccer, finished my thesis for my major, spent a lot of time with friends, and got to do all the senior activities that happen every year,” Wilt said.
Andrew Rodden ’21 also felt the hardships of school brought on by the pandemic. “Finishing college during a pandemic has been a major buzzkill. E-learning is a mess, and most of the momentum going into senior year was obliterated, at least for me.”
Rodden wished he could have been on campus for his senior year. “Being away from CC has been a bummer, absolutely did not expect to spend senior year at home.”
The strict restrictions set up by the school were also difficult changes for some seniors on campus. Certain restrictions were put into place for the safety of those on campus and to keep case numbers low, but it was uncharted territory that was difficult to navigate.
“The minimal travel allowed during block breaks did not aid with anything,” Gewirz said. “Personally, I have always used block breaks to get out of the Springs and venture beyond a comfort zone in a new environment. The rules set in place over these breaks did not allow that and further contributed to the isolating factors that COVID has brought.”
“I was planning on taking a block out in Los Angeles in June 2020,” Rodden said. “But that was canceled. Just all the stuff you do as a senior at CC I’ve missed out on.”
There is no denying that students had no practice in getting through an academic year the way they had to. Despite this, some students were still able to see what they could take away from their experiences.
“It’s really hard to talk about our graduating class without looking at it through the eyes of COVID,” Gewirz said. “Our class overcame so many challenges that we could have never predicted. Not only were we able to finish requirements and complete thesis work before graduation, but we were tasked with all these while still adapting to remote learning and only having the rare chance to enter a classroom and meet one-on-one with a professor or groupmate.”
Wilt had takeaways from the pandemic as well. “I enjoyed spending a lot of time with my family that I would not have gotten without the pandemic, as well as a lot of time spent with my friends trying to come up with fun things to do while stuck inside,” she said.
“I guess the pandemic kept me at home, which is nice because I was kind of homesick in early 2020,” Rodden said. “So it was a fun opportunity to catch up with family and friends.”
Still, there were things that few could have seen coming when the pandemic first hit. Many plans had to either change to accommodate social distancing, take place online, or simply had to be cancelled entirely.
“Spring break being cancelled was probably the largest let down of the year in my eyes,” Gewirz said. “As seniors it would have been extremely helpful to have a week or so off to focus on finding a job and networking rather than being thrown straight into another class without much time to reset.”
Wilt also missed iconic school events. “I was looking forward to the champagne showers, graduation, Llama, kicks, all of the fun spring events … It’s hard not to think about what we would have gotten to experience and all the good times we would have had.”
A mutual thought running through many minds is about what life would have been like without COVID-19. Would big trips, internships, celebrations, and so forth have taken place? And if so, how would life be different?
“I think senior year is a time for the graduating class to come together and bond with one another,” Gewirz said. “Obviously, COVID threw a wrench in those plans, so I think if we all were able to repeat this year without a pandemic it would have been a lot different.”
Rodden agreed. “I 100% wish things were normal this past year, and wish things were different. So yeah, in a different universe where there wasn’t a pandemic, that would’ve been the senior year I’d have preferred.”
Though some seniors have missed out on this year, they are thankful that commencement will still be held in person, albeit in a different location and with a smaller audience. Both Wilt and Rodden are planning on attending the in-person commencement ceremony. Gewirz did not specify.
In a year where many changes and sacrifices had to be made in order to keep the community safe, the silver linings were what kept students going. This may not be the way seniors saw their final year of college going, but they tried to make the best of what they had to work with.